Climate Change | Yale Opinion Study

Opinions of people in the United States about climate change range widely. Yale and George Mason Universities surveyed >22,000 people between 2008 and 2018 for the Climate Change in the American Mind project. The survey reveals a lot about beliefs, perceptions, support, and behavior across the country. You can compare your opinions with others in your state, congressional district, metro area, and county.

Funding for the study was provided by the Skoll Global Threats Fund, the Energy Foundation, the 11th Hour Project, the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, the MacArthur Foundation, the Overlook Foundation and the Endeavor Foundation.

Sample Findings

70% of the respondents agree global warming is happening

49% agree that most scientists think it is happening

70% believe it will harm future generations

41% say it is now harming them personally

79% think schools should teach about climate change

70% say environmental protection is more important than economic growth

Interactive Map

The study presents the data in an interactive map of the U.S. Continue reading below where you will find a video tutorial I made showing how to easily use the interactive features of the map. If you prefer to explore on your own, click the map image below to go directly to the study.

Above the interactive map at the web site are six labeled tabs giving more detailed info:

Opinion Maps | About | Methodology | Survey Questions | Data Download | FAQ

Respondents were asked 28 questions about their beliefs about climate change, what risks they perceive, what policies they would support, and how they behave regarding climate change. The methodology incorporated models to validate results nationally, statewide, by districts, metro areas and counties. General results of the >22,000 surveyed were compared to independent, representative state surveys conducted in California, Colorado, Ohio, Texas, and city level surveys in San Francisco, and Columbus, Ohio in 2013.

Tutorial for Map Navigation

This 9 min tutorial will save you time as you try to learn how the interactive behaves. There is a large amount of information available on a more granular level as you explore each question at state, district, metro, and county views.

What Do You Think?

Feedback about the study is welcome. How were your attitudes reinforced? Were you surprised by results from your part of the country? Do you feel more, or less, optimistic after seeing this? Some of the results made me feel more hopeful public opinion was on the right track. Others made me discouraged. Few of the responses surprised me. Many important issues are fraught with very large gulfs of disagreement when we should instead be focused on finding solutions. This issue isn’t going away on its own. It will continue to present the populations of the world with challenges. I’m not feeling very optimistic of our willingness to meet them and accept change. I would like to be proven wrong.

This from Joel Pett of the Lexington Herald…


15 thoughts on “Climate Change | Yale Opinion Study

  1. Excellent work. Even among those who accept climate change is real, there are those who have been programmed to first assert that it is 1) a natural phenomenon. 2) nothing can or should be done about it. The next level of research is to determine what will move their needle in the right direction.

    • It doesn’t appear that argument or persuasion is effective at changing minds. Maybe suffering from climate change related storms, floods and droughts would be more persuasive to the doubters. Trouble is, climate change is quite slow-moving. Fixing the damages we done will take decades or centuries even if we can all agree on the best courses of action.

  2. I can see CC with my own eyes and experience since I was young. First and last frost dates are a month different, winters are relatively milder, summers hotter and storms stronger.
    The thing is, given our collective addiction to our energy consumptive lifestyles, I can’t see folks giving that up. The US needs the equivalent of the Space Race to make the changes needed to even slow this thing down.

    • Right you are. I want to be optimistic. But, I don’t see it either. Your observations over the years are because you have paid attention to the world. Few people do that. It’s like paying no attention to your daily health and then wondering why you are sick and out of shape.

  3. Great tutorial and some of the results did surprise me. Having lived in California most my life I tend to follow those results. What surprised me most is that people are hearing about it on the news but still discredit the information. I’m not sure if the “fake news” issue has something to do with this or if much of the populace is unaware…meaning lacking the skills of basic observation over time…they don’t see. Sadly, lack of observation has had devastating results, not just in climate change. The rise of Hitler is one example.

    I was not surprised that areas of the country which used fossil fuels disregarded global warming…bread and butter being threatened…so to speak.

    I was disappointed that so many feel that education should not be done.

    Thanks for the presentation.

    • Thank you for those comments. I think you are correct in saying most people aren’t being observant. Those of us with a few years and who tend to watch nature have seen trends that are different than in the past.
      I think farmers in Iowa are seeing some changes in rainfall patterns. There are more intense rainfall rates.
      Yes, the education issue was disappointing. It seemed the more rural areas were lower on the issue.

      • In Florida, we are seeing a change in the rainy season patten. When I first arrived 10 years ago, it was in May. Now it is falling later and later. This year we had rainy days in the fall which used to be our dry months.

        • Weather always has change. More people are seeing the more subtle trends you describe. It requires paying attention to the long run patterns.

  4. I am stunned that over 70% of people believe it is happening and should be taught in schools. That correlates with the roughly 30% approval rating I saw for the orange one. I share your pessimism that we’ll accept change. What worries me are those who want to engineer our planet to absorb carbon, completely sidestepping the elegant solution Earth itself provides, in the shape of trees and prairie plants with their extremely deep roots.

    • I completely agree with you about the trees and plants. They evolved to cope with the levels of CO2 in the long history of earth. But, today we’ve jacked up that CO2 so high. Can trees and plants take care of it? We need them back and we need to do some engineering?

      • You bring up a good point. Many trees and forbs will suffer with ^ CO2. We’ll have to be mindful about that, and plant accordingly, as some species will be thrive under these new conditions. Also, there are some species that should probably be planted north of where they currently are.
        Engineering the planet scares me because we really have no way of knowing what the unintended consequences will be. We can be sure, however, that there will be some and they will likely be worse than people might think. Won’t it cause earthquakes, and disrupt our groundwater, contaminating it? I feel it would be better to stay the course of switching our energy to wind and solar and let the CO2 subside gradually.

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